In completely unrelated news this weekend, two stories seem to symbolize problems that the NCAA is going to have to deal with in some way, and I believe both of these things will cause college football to look nothing like it does today in the very near future.
1. Reports that UAB will shut down it’s football program.
Where there’s smoke there is fire, and there is smoke aplenty around this story. UAB’s athletics run at a deficit, as do most college athletic departments. Football is the biggest strain on the finances of college athletic departments, and it’s only going to get worse. UAB is in a unique situation because it is run by the Board of Trustees of the Alabama system, in Tuscaloosa, and there have been widely reported disputes about the relationship that board has with UAB, but it is hardly alone in losing money.
In fact, as you can see in that last link, there are schools losing a lot more than UAB is.
How can that be sustainable? As the Power 5 conferences move to buying insurance policies for athletes, to guaranteeing 4 year scholarships, to providing more and more benefits to student athletes, how can schools that lose money now even stay competitive? They can’t. It’ll start with the non-Power 5 conference teams, but eventually it’ll trickle down to some of the smaller schools within those conferences. They simply won’t be competitive.
In the short time that I’ve lived in Oregon, I’ve watched this disparity first hand. Oregon State is, in all measurements, a larger, better, school than Oregon is. Corvallis is a slightly smaller city than Eugene, but other than that the two schools are pretty similar in the student make up. Yet one is running it’s athletic department at a significant deficit and the other is rolling in corporate money, with top of the line facilities, marketing, and national exposure. You can see the results on the field. Oregon State will never have the money to field a competitive football team, comparable to Oregon, Ohio State, Alabama, LSU, Florida and Florida State, etc. There’s a reason those schools are at the top of the rankings year in and year out, they have more resources than anyone else. Eventually, they’ll be playing a different game than everyone else too, and what will that look like?
2. The second, sadder and more serious news was Ohio State walk-on Kosta Karageorge being found dead of an apparent suicide.
While there is no conclusive proof that his concussion history led directly to the frame of mind that resulted in his death, there have been plenty of other cases that this seems eerily similar to. Most of those have involved retired NFL players, like Junior Seau, Dave Duerson, or even some of the more recent stories detailing the difficulties faced by former players like Darryl Talley. In this case, we’re talking about a young man, 22 years old, a senior in college, who’s life is over.
Concussions are an ongoing problem for football at all levels. From deaths of high school players to the sever cases of CTE diagnosed in former NFL players, I think it’s becoming clear that whatever precautions have been put in place to prevent these problems, are not enough.
But in the NCAA, again, you have schools putting their own students at risk in order to use athletics to raise the profile of the university. With everything we already know about concussions, and all we don’t know, how can this be sustainable?
Add the two together, and then combine it with issues of academic fraud, official corruption, influence over police investigations, domestic violence, etc. Why does the NCAA, and it’s members, think this system isn’t broken beyond repair?
Because, in the end, the people running NCAA football get theirs. The system is rigged to make sure of that. The question is, how long before everything crumbles around them?